Could wind turbine farms power the valley's future economy?
Could wind energy be the solution to economic struggles in the valley and across Northeast Ohio?
Could wind energy be the solution to economic struggles in the Valley and across Northeast Ohio?
The Blue Creek Wind Farm operated by Avangrid Renewables is not far from the small rural, suburban city of Van Wert.
The farm's 152 wind turbines catch your attention while traveling on Route 30 to the Ohio-Indiana border.
The largest wind farm in Ohio generates enough electricity to power the entire nearby communities.
"We're in both Paulding and Van Wert counties. That's more homes than we actually have in Paulding and Van Wert, so we could theoretically supply every home here," said Neil Voje said, plant manager at Blue Creek Wind Farm.
Voje says you need the right amount of space and a certain amount of wind for a wind farm to be successful. He says most areas around the country are viable locations.
The wind turbines can generate power starting with winds as low as 5 miles per hour, but the sweet spot for maximum production is 25 to 35 miles per hour. They're larger than the wind turbines of the past spanning 100 meters tall.
The movement from the turbines means money for two local school districts to the tune of more than a million dollars each year.
"That's big money for our schools, for county general- $300,000 comes into the county general fund, which we use for lots of different expenditures," said Thad Lichtensteiger said, Van Wert County commissioner.
Money from the wind farm helped the Crestview Local Schools enough financially that it didn't have to ask voters for a renewal levy in recent years. He says Lincolnview Schools used the funding to provide all of its students with tablets in the classroom.
While traditional jobs of the past in the Midwest continue to disappear, employment in the renewable energy sector is expected to power the economy in the years to come.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports wind turbine technicians rank second in the fastest-growing occupations leading into the year 2026. Solar panel installation is the top growing field.
State Senator Sean O'Brien says the Valley would benefit from renewable energy jobs, but the recent passage of House Bill 6 prevents it with tight property setback requirements for where turbines can be located.
"Wind is the future too. It's just with the setbacks in there; no one can build a wind farm," O'Brien said. "We're losing out on a multi-billion dollar industry that could come to Ohio and create hundreds of jobs."
O'Brien is a proponent of the natural gas industry and believes that should be the first form of renewable energy the state should invest in, instead of coal and nuclear.
Another Valley lawmaker says we have a lot of space for a future wind turbine or renewable energy operation. "We should be looking at our abandoned Steel Mills or even the GM Lordstown plant that could turn into a renewable energy campus," said Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan said, 58th District (OH-D).
Hagan says the Valley needs to reinvent itself and this would be one way do it.
Both say politics is getting is the only hurdle in the way of becoming home to the jobs of tomorrow.